Horse racing is an unforgiving sport, as Saturday's Preakness Stakes illustrated in classic fashion. You're on top of the world if you win the Kentucky Derby but can become just another long face in the crowd a mere two weeks later. On Saturday, heavy favorite Orb joined the list of Derby winners who quickly lost glory in the second leg of the Triple Crown, finishing fourth behind winner Oxbow. Here, we take a look at several Derby winners of the past quarter-century who flopped at Pimlico.
Winning Colors, 1988
Winning Colors (pictured on the inside, holding off Forty Niner) led gate to wire in the Kentucky Derby to become only the third filly to win the Run for the Roses. Her flop in the Preakness was not of her doing, as the boys played rough in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Hall of Famer Woody Stephens, trainer of Derby runner-up Forty Niner, was not going to let the filly get out to an easy lead again. Jockey Pat Day gunned Forty Niner to stay with Winning Colors up front, and the horses bumped several times. Risen Star benefited from the duel to win the Preakness as Winning Colors held on for third and Forty Niner faded to seventh in the nine-horse field.
Strike the Gold, 1991
As the third betting choice in the Kentucky Derby, Strike the Gold proved best with a sweeping outside move and a charge down the center of the track. In the Preakness, however, he got pinned on the rail and jockey Chris Antley never got him to the outside. Strike the Gold finished sixth as the beaten Derby favorite, Hansel, won convincingly.
Lil E. Tee, 1992
Regarded so lightly that he once sold for $2,000, upstart Lil E. Tee proved the naysayers wrong with a Derby victory nearly 17-1, defeating the vaunted Arazi in the process. If the story ended there, Disney would come calling for the movie rights. Alas, the next chapter was the Preakness. Lil E. Tee bled during the race and finished fifth, well behind winner Pine Bluff. The colt skipped the Belmont after being diagnosed with a lung infection.
Sea Hero, 1993
A stakes winner at 2, Sea Hero had a case of spring fever as a 3-year-old and got to the Derby mainly on the blind faith of trainer Mack Miller. That faith paid off when Sea Hero recaptured his youthful form for an upset win at nearly 13-1 odds. But reality struck at Pimlico. Sea Hero was fifth without an excuse as the Derby's beaten favorite, Prairie Bayou, won the Preakness.
Go for Gin, 1994
Go for Gin showed that his rainy-day Derby victory wasn't a fluke by running second in the Preakness. But he also showed he wasn't the best 3-year-old by getting caught by Tabasco Cat, who had finished a distant sixth in the Derby. Tabasco Cat ran first to Go for Gin's second in the Belmont, too, cementing his superiority.
Thunder Gulch, 1995
Jockey Gary Stevens whooped it up after Thunder Gulch, at 24.5-1 odds, pulled an upset with a late kick in the Kentucky Derby, but he was muted in Baltimore. Thunder Gulch ran a respectable third in the Preakness, but he suffered the ignominy of being disrespected by his trainer. Stablemate Timber Country finished third in the Derby, yet D. Wayne Lukas wore a Timber Country cap to the barn the day after the Derby, reminding everyone who was the favored son. Lukas' faith in Timber Country paid off with a Preakness victory.
They say the large Derby fields and generally fast early pace favor closers, if they get a clean trip. Monarchos took advantage of both to win at 10.5-1 odds in Kentucky. Bet down to 2.3-1 in the Preakness, he simply went around the track without his usual late bid. He finished sixth without ever threatening as Point Given avenged defeat from two weeks earlier.
Giacomo rallied to a stunning Derby victory at 50-1, making Churchill Downs a perfect spot for his first stakes victory. He still had plenty of doubters at Pimlico, as he was sent off as the 6-1 third choice in the Preakness. Favored Afleet Alex overcame a major stumble at the top of the stretch for a clear victory. Giacomo charged late, as usual, but this time he was nearly 10 lengths back at the finish and had to settle for third.
Mine That Bird, 2009
Truthfully, Mine That Bird (pictured in second) doesn’t deserve to be called a flop for finishing second by a length in the Preakness two weeks after his shocking score at 50-1 in the Derby. And it matters not that he lost to a girl, Rachel Alexandra. No, Mine That Bird makes this list because his jockey knew he was going to lose. After guiding Mine That Bird in the Derby, Calvin Borel abandoned him in favor of Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Borel chose wisely.
Super Saver, 2010
Super Saver took to a wet Churchill Downs track to win the Derby at 8-1 odds. Bettors clamored to him, making the colt a 1.9-1 favorite for the Preakness, but he had nothing to offer in the stretch. After tracking front-runner First Dude most of the race, Super Saver ran out of gas and faded to eighth, 11-1/2 lengths behind winner Lookin At Lucky.